A Genuine Pageturner
From Start To Finish,
With Inventive Narrative Flair.
A Superb Read As Saunders adds
an enlightening footnote to the
annals of history.
Evoking images of the vanishing world of uranium, the author shares his adventures, misadventures and respect for his fellow miners through a unique blend of traditional and offbeat storytelling by way of a collection of character sketches, entertaining anecdotes, and glimpses into a time and place and way of working that are now gone. The author consistently conveys the sense that his younger self was learning from all these different experiences, providing a unifying thread, as did his awareness that the story builds up to the eventual major injury described in the prologue. It employs a self-deprecating brand of humor, which at time is pretty hilarious, but there is also a seriousness to the book. The idea that the life lessons learned were as important as any practical skills acquired comes through strongly, as does the respect, even reverence, conveyed for honest, hard work. Even though these people and these experiences could hardly be further removed from those of most readers it is not necessary to know anything about mining to enjoy reading about the life underground. There is a strong thread of humanity woven through this work giving it real resonance.
A fascinating precis of an extraordinary life with singularly unique characters Underground and Radioactive makes for a highly enjoyable, illuminating and educating read with Saunders taking us back to the mid-seventies when uranium mining was at its peak. An honest and lyrical account of his experiences of life hundreds of feet below ground he begins his mining memories as he takes us on his first cage ride as a greenhorn labourer through to his time as a fully certified miner and you can be sure he hasn’t pulled any punches. This was life at the sharp end where life and death were often a hairsbreadth apart but far from being a cautionary account, Saunders injects plenty of levity and heartfelt emotion as he introduces us to a host of colourful characters. Some transient and others like Cal Cargill who had a profound influence on him. These were hard men, hewed by the rigours of a hostile environment but for those who made the grade, there was a tremendous sense of camaraderie. This comes across strongly in Saunders reflections, especially in his accounts of accidents and near misses, and the unexplained phenomenon of a mysterious light which leads to rumours of a haunting in the mine.
As with other types of hard rock mining, there are several methods of uranium extraction but underground mining has to be the most fascinating and by recounting his experiences Saunders adds another enlightening footnote to the annals of Uranium Mining history. A unique and highly enjoyable read it is recommended without reservation.
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Roger D. Saunders is a retired economist living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.